26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2007
Having read reviews on Amazon and other places, I placed this item on my wish list and received it for my birthday. I was really looking forward to reading it - I love stuff like this and read quite a bit as a diversion from business, fiction, and science reading.
Unfortunately I don't share the same level of enthusiasm for this work as the other reviewers here. While there were times the columnist/blogger/casual-essayist style was entertaining, at many points I found it a bit like listening to someone working hard at making connections because he could, not because they really were all there. If I were speaking with the author at a party, I'm uncertain I would listen to him speak about one of his convergences for very long - not because he lacks education and depth and has some cool ideas - it's just that some of them strain to much to convergence. Is it really convergence when someone forces two things together rather than discovering the intersection?
I guess it felt like naming cloud images. Fun, but not for long, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, the other person can't quite see the pattern you see. But I am only one voice out of many, so take my perspective in stride.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
It is difficult to read Lawrence Wechsler's latest book without spinning off into realms of thought that defy description. The well known art historian and writer has gathered a series of essays that while not confined to art commentary still manage to reference 'art' on every level in which it influences our lives, our observations, and our deja vu!
EVERYTHING THAT RISES: A BOOK OF CONVERGENCES begins with the postulate that recognized or not, images rise and fall with some sense of continuity no matter how disparate or how separated in time - or even how ironically dissociative! To even summarize the contents of this book would seem a disservice to the potential reader: the joy in reading Wechsler's erudite yet lighthearted writing must be experienced in the manner in which he lays out his plethora of ideas.
But for teasers, Wechsler's 'conversations' and musings find similarities in such seemingly unassociated images as comparing a Myerowitz color photograph of the 9/11 firefighters resting with an anonymous black and white photograph of Union Army engineers in a nearly identical pose from the Civil War! Rembrandt's painting of the Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp from 1632 is paced side by side with an uncanny photograph from the 1967 black and white photograph of Bolivian soldiers gathered around the slain Che Guevara and the similarity looks as though the latter image was posed with Rembrandt's painting as model!
But these are only two examples of the art related convergences Wechsler addresses. Other forms are from observed cloud formations, political posters, old and new landscapes, etc - or in Wechsler's words 'uncanny moments of convergence, bizarre associations, eerie rhymes, whispered recollections'. The beautifully illustrated book is well designed, richly interesting, and quite unlike any other volume that challenges our senses. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 06
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2006
Lawrence Weschler has collected convergences throughout his life. With EVERYTHING THAT RISES: A BOOK OF CONVERGENCES, he offers his thoughts on these resonations in a series of essays that are both personal and universal.
Weschler has a distinct knack for seeing in the floating lips of a Man Ray painting or in a photograph of a solitary cloud the backside of a nude Venus but his ruminations are much broader than art history. His agglutinating mind embraces poetry, Einstein, cuneiform tablets, prisons and politics. He skillful links these seemingly disparate subjects with one common element - his human response to them.
The connection of imagery and ideas seems strangely familiar even if one has not previously considered these particular images juxtaposition. It might be human nature to find strange correspondences between things but few have the breadth of knowledge to link such wide-ranging subjects and fewer still would describe them with Weschler's easy elegance. His musings offer delightful possibilities rather than prescriptions and he stops short of any forced conclusions.
Of particular interest are Weschler's his discussion with photographer Joel Meyerowitz, who documented the World Trade Center site, in which he finds the beauty and stylistic echoes of Vermeer and early Civil War photography. Also moving is Weschler's changing response to a photograph of a father and daughter as he and his own daughter reach the relative ages of those in the photograph.
This pleasing volume is bound (with the customary McSweeney's care for design) in black cloth and features color reproductions of the paintings or photographs mentioned in the essays. It is an aesthetic delight to read. The short essays make it an ideal work to pick up and set down and I suspect I will return repeatedly to this unique book.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Weschler says, in his introduction, that his publisher heard about one of Weschler's notebooks, one full of ideas that had not yet been put into print. The result is this lovely volume, a loose collection of gentle and wide-ranging speculations, most often driven by some kind of visual analogy.
In some, the parallel elements are clear. For example, p.9 shows, a cavernous ruin excavated during cleanup after the World Trade Center attacks. On the same page, it also shows a work by Piranesi, in his Carceri d' Invenzione (forgive my Italian: that may be "Dungeon of Invention"), with the same harsh but ambiguous lighting. There are certainly similarities in the two structures and compositions, but deeper similarities lie in reading each as a technological hellhole. Other sets of pictures, including the portraits on p.62, elude my sense of analogy. That's OK. This is a personal and unpolished set of musings coaxed into publication, possibly before its ideas had ripened fully, and I'm happy to have it be what it is.
I keep trying to liken this book to James Burke's "Connections," but the connection keeps not working. Burke's work is generally taut, sustained, fast-paced, and more or less rigorous in tracing the lineage between successive ideas. This book is unapologetically scattered and subjective. Ideas link to each other along circuitous routes, and with wider concerns than Burke's focus on technology. Weschler's softer topics include "Women's Bodies", in which he addresses his subject lovingly, but as a marvel and a mystery - well, don't we all? At least, all of us who aren't women?
His best writing, however is in the chapter on "Political Occasions." It describes the freeing of Eastern Europe and especially Poland during the 1980s and 1990s. He creates a dichotomy between the Polish regime and the Polish people, whom he idealizes in wonderful ways. If I take Weschler at face value, the Poles are a people who have uniquely integrated their arts, politics, and lives, based on examples in graphics, poetry, theater, and literature. (I also respect their rich mathematics, but Weschler is an artist.) As citizen-artists, they subvert their oppressors with the words of the oppressors, in subtle displays of thaumaturgic judo.
This is a book that I've wanted to see for a long time. Other books give beautiful examples of scientists reaching out from science into the subjective studies, and execrable examples of artists trying to do the same. This, instead, shows an artist reaching out towards science and politics within his cast of mind, and succeeding brilliantly.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
For its strange and compelling originality, I gave this book five stars. Author Lawrence Weschler's visual connections are unlike anything I have ever been exposed to. And it was because of this work, that when I was compiling photos for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, that I began to notice family photographic "echoes."
A picture of my 1-year old brother in his stroller, mouth wide open in toothless glee, reaching toward the camera, echoed a photo taken at family gathering 45 years later in which the only things different are the chair in which he sits and his gleaming teeth. His body language, his expression, even his adult-sized outstretched arm are the same as the boy from the stroller.
These sorts of echoes are commonly seen in your standard `grip-and-grin" shots at traditional events such as birthdays and weddings. But in one-off photos like the baby/adult ones of my brother, there's something more at work. Did a buried memory surface when a similar photographic situation arose that caused him to echo his own pose from 45 years before?
That might explain the same person subconsciously reacting to a similarly presented situation, but it fails to explain completely separate scenes, at different times, featuring a random set of people or circumstances that nonetheless are captured in an eerily identical composition to each another by artists not known to one another.
Not all the connections in this book are photographic. Weschler includes geographical, artistic, scientific, and architectural connections, too, in which human behavior could not have influenced the outcome. This is a provocative look at an unusual and inexplicable phenomenon of things that converge between time and place.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2009
Once Weschler started seeing relationships between images from disparate sources, he started seeing such relationships, and others (between stories and images, stories and stories, etc.) everywhere. He began to write these 'convergences' up over the years in a series of essays which eventually were collected and published by the good folks at McSweeney's.
Some of the connections seem a bit of a stretch and, at first, simply coincidence. Many may be coincidence, but the characteristics that tie these images and stories together are often numerous and repeated across centuries, leading Weschler (and this reader) to conclude that there are, at least, certain characteristics shared by these tools for passing on human experience which contribute, at least in part, to their power and timelessness.
The first essay, related to 9/11, is a bit too easy, since the emotional impact of this recent event remains strong in most, if not all, of us. But that doesn't minimize the value of what Weschler has to show us in these images (and their stories). After the first three essays, I was sold on the premise and felt that I was reading a book that provided a very special way of looking at the world and its images. Like any collection of essays not originally written as a single work, there are some which don't stand up quite as well as others, but overall, these are a fine collection of observations on today, history, art, image, and how humans percieve their world and the events that surround us.
on March 3, 2008
I love Weschler's writing and the subjects he writes about, especially on art. He has an interesting way of looking at things, bringing together history and art, broadening our understanding of the visual world we live in. A great book that will get you thinking!
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2006
Lawrence Weschler has a powerful mind. The essays in this collection cover such divergent topics as art to politics. The author, however, finds was to connect seemingly unrelated works. The essays are a camera into a very thoughtful mind who looks at the world and tries to connect it to himself and tries to connect the edges to each other.
I personally had purchased this book and was reading it during a time of poetic writer's block and I found the essays so thought provoking that I produced at least 3 new pages of writing.
The only drawback is that a few of the essays are a bit dated. I am referring here to primarily those on Solidarity. I feel to really understand those in better detail I would have to do some more research on that time in our history.
This is a great intellectual read and is a pleasure for the eye as well with great photography and artwork within its' hardcover pages.